Gachagua opens new battlefront in quest to become Mt Kenya kingpin

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

The new year is likely to be politically interesting for Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua as he seeks to entrench himself as the new Mt Kenya kingpin.

Gachagua has started political wars with leaders as he seeks to remove potential threats in his path to become the region's supremo.

Mt Kenya's kingpin position is currently vacant after the exit of Uhuru Kenyatta from the presidency.

Uhuru failed to pick a regional successor before last year's General Election and Murang'a Governor Irung'u Kang'ata said that he was politically selfish.

The DP started a war with Johnson Sakaja last month after he warned the Nairobi governor against making decisions that will hurt businessmen.

He said Governor Sakaja was elected through the support of Mt Kenya and he must protect and support regional interests in the city.

"I shall sit down with Sakaja because we are the ones who elected him and he must understand we must first discuss anything which can disrupt business in Nairobi. He seems to have picked up a lot of speed and must slow down," he said.

In December, Sakaja directed upcountry passenger vehicles to move to Green Park terminus. However, the directive was halted by the courts.

The governor's decision was seen as an affront to transporters in the Nyamakima area which serves as termini for matatu saccos from Nakuru, Kajiado, Narok and Mt Kenya.

The DP's spat with Sakaja saw Western MPs led by Nabii Nabwera (Lugari) urge President William Ruto to intervene.

But it was a press conference called by former Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria on December 16 that revealed hurdles Gachagua is facing in laying claim to the Mt Kenya kingpin position.

Wa Iria claimed that there was a plot to cut down to size any potential leader from Mt Kenya to ensure they have no voice on national matters.

He was speaking just days after his wife's property was fingered by anti-graft agencies.

The former governor alleged that the DP had a hand in his woes saying that he had been approached to fold up his Usawa Kwa Wote party.

Nicholas Karweru Kiragu, the Usawa Kwa Wote party national chair yesterday said he had given notice that he would leave the party this month.

"We want to tell the Usawa party leader that the deputy president is not the author of his tribulations and he should stop incriminating him as I will personally lead a battalion that will defend Rigathi Gachagua," he said.

Kiragu, who vied for the Mathira parliamentary seat on Usawa ticket, said Gachagua is a longtime friend who should now be accepted as the Mt Kenya kingpin.

"We have in the past tried to help Wa Iria make the right choices by aligning himself with the popular party but he buried his political career by joining the Azimio camp," he said.

The plot to cripple Wa Iria politically includes mass defections to President William Ruto's United Democratic Alliance by top officials of Usawa party.

The DP is also said to be embroiled in the fight for control of the leadership of tea and coffee groups in Mt Kenya.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi is understood to have held meetings with leaders of coffee and tea value chains.

On December 19, last year, the CS presided over the annual smallholder tea conference at Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi. By virtue of his position, Gachagua's camp expected him to be invited but that did not happen.

On December 22, last year the DP vowed to fight tea and coffee cartels while addressing mourners at the burial of Matu Wamae, the former Mathira MP and chair of New Kenya Co-operative Creameries.

"This pronouncement has deeply angered the Agriculture CS. He sees it as an indirect attack having completed his meetings with the sectors' leaders. He also sees it as an interference in his work coming a few months after Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria made pronouncements on GMOs and maize imports which fall under Agriculture," said Linturi's ally who sought anonymity.

It is understood that tension has been brewing between the DP and Linturi over the appointment of Principal Secretaries after Linturi sought to assert himself as Meru kingpin while the DP insisted that he was representing the interests of the larger Mt Kenya region.

The spokesman for the Agriculture CS said he was working well with the DP. "To the best of my knowledge, there is a perfect working relationship between the DP and the CS. They are both aligned to the president's vision of transforming agriculture into a profitable venture," said the spokesman.

Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza sought the intervention of Linturi when she was impeached by the county assembly. The impeachment was dismissed by the Senate.

Gachagua's opinion on the impeachment is unknown but there are reports that he will meet the Meru Parliamentary Group and the agenda of the meeting has not been made public.

On the DP's quest to be Mt Kenya Kingpin, political commentator Prof Gitile Naituli says: "Give it to him, he is speaking the language of the mountain. He is speaking his mind. He is reckless. He is rough and he doesn't care what you think about it. That is what Mt Kenya wants. The only problem is that Mt Kenya doesn't like kingpins. It is the leaders who always want to become kingpins."

Prof Naituli reckons that the confrontations Gachagua is extending to the likes of Sakaja will win him a loyal crowd in Mt Kenya as it will be seen as protecting regional interests.